Published Date Written by Michael KitchCONCORD — A bill that would repeal a statute halving boat registration fees scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015, sponsored by Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia), was heard by the House Transportation Committee yesterday.
Huot, who with Earl Sweeney, assistant commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Safety and a representative of the New Hampshire Marine Trades Association spoke in support of the bill, said that the proposal received a favorable reception from the committee.
The registration fees are deposited in the navigation fund, which together with an annual matching grant from the United States Coast Guard are the major sources of funding for the Marine Patrol. Huot said that he filed the bill at the request of the Department of Safety, which feared that the prospective reduction in revenue from the fees would cripple the Marine Patrol. The registration fees, which had not been raised since they were introduced, were doubled in 2009 to when the growth in number of registered vessels stalled, sapping the revenue stream.
Meanwhile, in the 2011-2012 budget, the balance in the navigation fund, some $1-million was stripped and transferred to the general fund to help balance the state budget. Huot said that a share of funds were designated for repairs to the facility at Glendale, which is settling into Lake Winnipesaukee. The department was not only compelled to defer work at Glendale, but also to reduce the personnel deployed on the lakes last summer from 60 to 39. Moreover, without sufficient matching funds, the grant from the Coast Guard is at risk, which could prompt further reductions in personnel this summer.
"This bill is just the beginning," Huot said, explaining that funds must be included in the 2013-2014 budget to secure the Coast Guard grant. "This is a difficult situation," he remarked.